Arch, Polaris back a $20M round for Scholar Rock's immune system R&D platform

Scholar Rock has banked a $20 million A round, bringing in some new backers to fuel the early stage of development for its immune system-modulating drug platform technology.

A-lister Arch Venture Partners stepped in as a new investor to lead the round for the Cambridge, MA-based biotech, with additional funds from the seed founders: Harvard scientist Timothy Springer and Polaris Partners, a well-known group focused on cutting-edge research. EcoR1 Capital, a relatively new biotech venture player based in San Francisco, and The Kraft Group also came in as new investors.

Nagesh Mahanthappa

With this round of financing in place Scholar Rock is positioned to carry out in vivo proof-of-concept labor, pick the first clinical development candidates and lay the foundation for some development partnerships that will fund the next leg of the journey, says CEO Nagesh Mahanthappa.

"We have a couple of programs in progress right now," Mahanthappa adds, as the biotech looks to build a portfolio of programs that are both proprietary and partnered.

Back in January the biotech upstart formed an early collaboration with the J&J Innovation group and Janssen, which has a keen interest in the immune disease research work being done in Springer's Harvard lab. Springer and his team have been exploring the role of TGF-beta1, a growth factor modulator that could play a role in hitting the brakes on an immune system attack, which would help control autoimmune diseases. These niche activators in the microenvironment of the immune system offer a new approach to a number of diseases. On the flip side the work could also help find novel ways to turn on an immune system attack, an approach that could have combinatorial potential in the oncology field, where immuno-oncology has become a field of intense interest in recent years.

Scholar Rock has a staff of 11 now, and the CEO says that number should continue to grow as the biotech makes additional progress toward the clinic. Along with the new financing Scholar Rock also put out the word Monday morning that it had hired Elan Ezickson as the new COO.

The CEO was head of corporate development at Avila, where he worked with Katrine Bosley, who's now at the helm of Editas and sits on the board at Scholar Rock. Now they're both part of the biotech redux generation, joining a whole wave of execs who are running startup developers after a burst of buyouts.

- here's the release

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